Q. I am a 17-year-old male, and I'm wondering if it's wrong to masturbate. If it is, how do you control it?

A. This is a big issue. Some statistics say that 98 percent of teenage males have masturbated (rumor has it the other 2 percent are lying) and the same is true for up to 33 percent of teenage females. So this is an important question!

Regarding your question, my general rule of thumb is that when the Bible directly addresses an issue, I can give you an answer. When the Bible doesn't, I can offer an opinion. Since the Bible does not directly address masturbation, I've got an opinion for you (based on other principles from the Bible). Let's take a look at this from two angles: 1) should I do it, and 2) if I do, how do I stop?

Should I do it?
Here's the opinion: No.

Generally speaking, when guys choose to masturbate, it involves lustful thoughts. (Put it this way, I've never heard of a guy masturbating while looking at a picture of a tree.) When we lust, two things are happening: We're being selfish, and we're looking at or thinking thoughts that are inappropriate. Since the Bible deals directly with those two areas (see Philippians 4:8 and Romans 12:3), we've got some guidelines.

Does that mean you're weird or sick if you do it? No! I am suggesting, however, that it's not a safe practice. There're all kinds of rumors out there that say crazy things happen to those who masturbate. That's just talk - don't worry. But one real thing that could happen when you masturbate is that you'll begin to develop a wrong view of women, seeing them only as objects to satisfy you, rather than as sisters in Christ to be cared for and honored. This is especially important if you get married someday.

How do I stop?
The reality is, we're prone to sexual stimulation all the time, whether it's a girl's sweet-smelling perfume or a low-cut dress. It doesn't take much for a guy to get turned on. So what do you do when tempted to masturbate?

First, realize that God has set up a system for us to release some of that "tension," called wet dreams ("nocturnal emission"). If you've ever woken up feeling guilty because you ejaculated while sleeping, don't worry. You're not bad and you didn't do anything wrong. Your body is simply at work. Otherwise, here are some ideas:

1) Take a cold shower ... go jogging/swimming ... do anything athletic
2) Think about something else. (Got to work hard on this one because lustful thoughts will keep popping in there.)
3) Refocus your thoughts. If you've been thinking about a girl you're
attracted to, begin praying for her and her purity. Pray that she would
honor God in her life, particularly physically. (It's amazing how that will calm you down.)
4) Evaluate what movies/TV shows you're watching. You may not watch a
seductive show for the purpose of checking out the women, but your mind
takes everything in ... and usually reminds you of those images later.
5) Remember, it takes time to break a habit. The best way to start is to ask a trusted friend for help and prayer, and don't expect success overnight. It takes time!

God's love for you doesn't change if you masturbate. He's in love with you today and forever. But He wants you to avoid acting on lustful thoughts and to replace those thoughts with ones that please Him. You're not a failure or a bad Christian - you're God's child! Take one step at a time!

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